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23 Apr 2006

Husband's Massive Heart Attack
Dear Doctor,

I've recently lost my 44 year old husband to an Acute Myocardial Infarction. He had no prior heart condition. He started with buring in his neck and sweating and I thought it was a panic attack and acid reflux. To make a long story short, 50 minutes after his symptoms started I was taking him to the ER; however, we never made it. Now I am blaming myself for his death. I feel I should have insisted he go earlier. Do you think if I brought him earlier he would have survived?
Answer 393 views

01 Jan 0001

Dear Tiffany,

Whilst it is possible that earlier admission to an emergency unit might have saved your husband’s life, you cannot accept full responsibility for his death.

Firstly, he – the patient – had the responsibility to ask for, or accept help. If he rejected you insistence until it was too late, then there is no way that you can hold yourself accountable for another person’s choices.

Secondly, this fits the picture of the type of massive infarct from which most patients do not recover in any case. What I’m saying is that even if he had reached an ER earlier, there might have been very little chance of survival. Often, in previously asymptomatic patients, this sort of heart attack is caused by a “mainstem” lesion. What this means is an obstruction in a particular part of the coronary artery system, which effectively blocks off the blood supply to the whole left side of the heart. If this obstruction is not immediately relieved, the heart can develop ventricular fibrillation. If, then, the heart is not shocked (defibrillated) within seconds, the patient can die.

I am very sorry for the loss of your husband, especially under these traumatic circumstances. I’m quite sure that he would not have wanted you to feel responsible for the outcome. Hard as it seems, life must go on, and you must eventually pick up the pieces and rebuild a life for yourself. Carrying unnecessary guilt feelings will hamper you in this. I fully understand what you are saying, but I also understand that you have many years life ahead of you, and would wish them to be peaceful, productive ones.

Good luck.
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